Agriculture Minister Michael Creed says Ireland must be prepared for every Brexit scenario, including a second referendum, but must not be complacent.
Ahead of talks in the new year on trade priorities for Ireland, as part of the future EU-UK relationship, Mr Creed said there were just weeks to drive home concerns about Ireland’s fisheries sector.
As Ireland and like-minded EU countries, such as Spain, France, the Netherlands, and Denmark, moved into phase two of Brexit talks on trade, it was crucial to ensure that debate about fishing rights was “not isolated” and was, instead, part of “some broad agreement”, said Mr Creed.
“The UK would love to have a fisheries debate around ‘these are our fish, these are our waters and if you want access, you have to come knocking at our door and be very nice to us’,” he said.
“Our approach is: You have a legal share of those fisheries. You don’t control all the fish in those waters and when you leave the European Union, you take your legal share. Nothing more, nothing less.”
At least a third of Ireland’s catch, by weight and value, currently comes from British waters. Next year’s EU fisheries deal was hammered out by member states last week. Mr Creed says these should be the rules for Britain when it leaves.
“It is a sector that stands to lose more than any sector, if we play on the pitch the UK is articulating, [saying] ‘our fish, our waters’,” he said.
The Cork North-West TD said any “opportunistic, unilateralist approach” by Britain on the fisheries talks will have “negative consequences for the wider relationship talks”.
But asked if there was also a possibility of a second referendum in Britain, he said: “They are leaving and the negotiations are critical. We can speculate and be distracted on whether or not they might have a second referendum. What we have to do is prepare for every possible scenario.”
Nonetheless, he also said it would be “dangerous” for Ireland to “pause” Brexit preparations, even if there was a demand for a second Brexit vote.
Meanwhile, Tánaiste Simon Coveney said that the Government’s relationship with the Democratic Unionist Party needs to be repaired. He told RTÉ: “Because of the tension around trying to get the [phase one] deal we felt was needed for everyone on this island, yes, of course there is repair work to do.”
He said that the absence of a power-sharing executive in the North was “part of the problem” of Brexit.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved